Bluejays rally to knock off Rapids
A potential win in Thursday’s make-up game with Mosinee slipped away under the pressure of a late shot, but the Merrill boys bounced back the very next night with a 52-49 triumph at Wis. Rapids.
“Just for a psyche standpoint, it was important to play well in Rapids, but a win is going to do the most for your team,” MHS coach Kurt Soderberg said. “It was a very satisfying win. Rapids is not an easy place to play. Now it’s important to follow that up.”
Soderberg noted the recent inconsistency of the squad.
“It was frustrating because we beat Marshfield, then lost to Shawano (53-49) and then lost to Mosinee (40-39),” Soderberg said. “As good as we felt after Marshfield we felt an exact 180 (degrees) on Saturday, and if you can get lower than that, that’s how we felt after Thursday’s loss.
“That’s what you’ve got to love about athletics. You’ve got to come out and play every night.”
Rapids represented a reversal of fortune.
“We had a very good walk-through on Friday before we left for Rapids,” Soderberg said. “The kids figured out some things and they took ownership.
“We were more efficient on offense. We focused on limiting our threes. The only guy with the green light is David (Jesperson). If we’re taking 40 shots and 35 are inside the arc, then we’re very efficient.
“We had guys step up and play. Jake (Anderson) scored some big baskets, and Paul (Theorin) played very well. Nick Peterson didn’t score but he did a ton of other things. Brandon (Bartz) went 8-for-8 at the free throw line. Michael Seaman came back and played very well. A lot of guys contributed and we were very active defensively.”
Merrill grabbed early 7-0 and 9-2 leads.
“We scored on four of our first five possessions,” Soderberg said. “It really makes a difference when you can do that. Valley road wins are very difficult to attain, although we’ve been very good on the road.
They reached their largest advantage at 27-18 shortly before a 27-20 halftime. The Raiders cut it to 37-33 by the end of the third and out-scored the Jays 16-15 in the fourth to get within three points.
The Bluejays never flinched at crunch time. Merrill has played in seven games decided by five points or fewer, posting a 3-4 record.
“We’re used to close ones now,” Soderberg said.
MHS production came from: Jesperson (23p, 5 r, 4 a); Theorin (9 p, 3 r); Bartz (8 p); Seaman (4 p, 3 r); Anderson (6 p); and Nick Peterson (3 r).
Merrill–FG: 18-30 (60%); FT: 13-16 (81%). Wis. Rapids–FG: 19-43 (44%); FT: 6-10 (60%).
The Jays jumped out on Mosinee as well, leading 9-2 early, and taking 10-7, 24-20 and 32-28 margins at the end of the first three quarters. But Mosinee pulled out the win with a 12-7 fourth, making a shot in the final 10 seconds for the win.
“We were up by one but they made a shot with nine, seven seconds left, something like that,” Soderberg said. “We ran a full-court play and Chaz Mootz had a contested 3-4 footer.
“We got a good look but it just didn’t go, and we couldn’t get control of the ball before the clock ran out.”
Offerings were turned in by: Jesperson (15 p, 10 r, 2 bl); Anderson (10 p, 4 r, 2 bl); Theorin (6 p, 3 a); Andrew Seaman (3 p).
Merrill–FG: 12-38 (32%); FT: 13-18 (72%). Mosinee–FG: 15-41 (37%); FT: 6-8 (75%).
The Jays sit at 3-5 in the WVC (and 6-10 overall), while Rapids was 3-4. Mosinee was 6-9 overall and 3-4 in the GNC.
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